NBA standings watching: How many wins do Timberwolves need to get No. 1 seed in the West?

After demolishing Sacramento on Wednesday night to improve to 4-0 post all-star break with an average margin of victory of 18 points, Denver made its intentions for the stretch run clear.

“It’s crunch time,” Nuggets guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope told reporters. “We want to be the No. 1 seed.”

Join the club.

Home-court advantage could prove pivotal in this year’s NBA playoffs given the West’s glut of quality teams.

Minnesota, Denver, Oklahoma City and the L.A. Clippers are all candidates to nab home-court advantage throughout the Western Conference playoffs. As of Thursday morning, Minnesota held the No. 1 spot, a half-game clear of Oklahoma City.

Denver is two games back of the Wolves, while the recently stumbling Clippers are four back, though still in contention. Minnesota plays host to Los Angeles on Sunday and, with a win, could effectively eliminate the Clippers from this specific conversation.

Believe it or not, the Wolves only have 23 regular-season games left. Now, ahead of Minnesota’s home game Friday against Sacramento, is an apt time to size up the race for the No. 1 spot.

There are metrics that can help identify the target win total required to etch your name onto the top line.

ESPN’S NBA Power index has Oklahoma City projected for 57.7 wins, while the Wolves are at 57.2, the Nuggets at 53.8 and the Clippers at 53.4.

Then there are the updated betting win totals. FanDuel sportsbook currently has the win over/under number for the Thunder and Wolves at 56.5, with Oklahoma City given better odds to eclipse that mark. Denver’s current line is 55.5, though the Nuggets are a hefty favorite to hit the “over,” and the Clippers’ line is set at 54.5.

With all of that in mind, 58 feels like a good bet to be a win total that would win the West, with 59 wins almost certainly getting it done. Coincidentally, Minnesota is currently on pace to reach 58 wins. It would have to finish 16-7 down the stretch to hit that number.

Given the Wolves’ recent play, that would appear to be a lock. But Minnesota’s schedule is fairly challenging the rest of the way. According to, the Wolves sport the eighth most difficult remaining schedule. Only three of the remaining games — against Portland, Washington and Detroit — could be classified as true layups.

Meanwhile, Minnesota has to play the Nuggets three more times, and the Clippers, Cavaliers and Suns twice each. One of those Cleveland games and two of the Wolves’ bouts with Denver come on the second half of back to backs.

After concluding their seven-game home stand next Monday, the Wolves will embark on a six-game road trip that includes games against the Pacers, Cavaliers, Clippers, Lakers and two against the Jazz. Each of those opponents are, at the very least, competitive.

Denver has the 17th most difficult remaining schedule, while the Thunder’s is 20th.

The schedule is likely why Oklahoma City, not Minnesota, is the Vegas favorite to finish the regular season with the best record in the West. The Thunder and Timberwolves split their four regular-season matchups. So a tie between the two teams would be determined by divisional record. Minnesota currently has the edge there, but the Wolves’ games against fellow divisional foe Denver will go a long way toward deciding that.

Those final three games against the Nuggets will also determine a potential tiebreaker between Minnesota and Denver. Minnesota won the lone meeting between the two teams to date back in November.

Minnesota has fared well against quality competition this season. The Wolves are 23-12 against teams at or above .500 this season, a record bested only by Boston. But the closing stretch of the season is perhaps the most adverse portion of the schedule this season given the combination of opponents, travel and back to backs.

And yet, despite all of that, this is when the Wolves will need to be at their best. Because it’s when everyone around them in the standings is ramping things up as all contenders chase the same goal — that lucrative No. 1 seed.

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